Monday, January 15, 2018

Happy 32nd Martin Luther King Jr. Day America! (Jan 15th) ♦ ♦ ♦ What's Google's Doodle this year?

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." ~~ Martin Luther King, Jr. American clergyman, activist, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement
This post has been updated from previous MLK day blogs from blog. Sometimes, the Google doodle will be from the previous yer.

Happy MLK Jr. Day America! There are so many activities and volunteers throughout the U.S.A. are embracing the spirit by giving their time to all sorts of activities. Also, happy birthday to our former First Lady, Michelle Obama who will turn 54 on Tuesday, January 17th.
Google is also celebrating Martin Luther King Day with a Google Doodle (see photo left).

Image below, screen capture of Google doodle to celebrate MLK Jr. Day's 30th in 2016.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience. King has become a national icon in the history of American progressivism.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of January each year, around the time of Dr. King's birthday on January 15th. It's always extra special when the actual holiday (Monday) is his birthday.

It is a federal holiday and all public schools, post offices, and government buildings will be closed.

MLK Jr. Day was first officially observed nationwide in 1986.

There are many things to do to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day.

Below are some interesting things to read and also helpful resources to celebrate MLK day in NYC and the Tristate area:

How to celebrate MLK , Family Education
The Dos and Donts of Celebrating MLK Day,
Martin Luther King Jr. "I have a dream" speech
Martin Luther King Day with NYC Kids: Celebrations & Volunteer Opportunities for Families
Martin Luther King Day events: How to mark MLK’s legacy - Make the most of your time off. Mark the civil-rights leader's achievements at performances, programming and Martin Luther King Day celebrations in New York.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service - A Day On, Not a Day Off,
19 Kid-Friendly Martin Luther King Day Celebrations
Martin Luther King Jr. Day Events - Here are nine ways to honor Dr. King's legacy this holiday weekend.
Martin Luther King Day of Service,
♦ Martin Luther King, Jr. in New York ,
♦ Martin Luther King Day events: How to mark MLK’s legacy Time Out New York

Please visit this blog frequently and share this with your social media. Thanks.

All photos courtesy of Wikimedia and screen shots taken from video and websites. All other photos will be credited as required.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

US Nationals Recap, Part 2 – Men, Pairs and Dance

In my previous blog post on the Ladies, I mentioned that the body of work criteria played a larger role in the Olympic Men’s team selection.  In this case the silver medalist, Ross Miner, 26, was left off the Olympic team, and to add insult to injury, was named second alternate for the Olympics (Sixth place finisher Jason Brown was named first alternate).  

Miner was left off the team because he had not medaled in a major international competition since 2015 and placed fifth the previous two seasons at Nationals.  Compared with the international results of the three other men chosen for the team, I can understand US Figure Skating committee’s reasons but neither Miner, nor his coach Mark Mitchell were happy with the decision. 

Mitchell was especially bitter because he was also left off the Olympic team in 1992 when he won a bronze medal at Nationals in favor of another skater.  Still, nobody can take away the amazing free skate that Miner had in San Jose, where the entire audience was on its feet following his Queen medley.

As for the Olympic team that was selected, gold medalist Nathan Chen was the class of the field here, ahead of Miner by over 45 points.  Although Chen was getting over being ill, he still managed to land seven quadruple jumps overall and wow the audience with his technical prowess.  

I prefer Chen’s short program to Benjamin Clementine’s “Nemesis,” due to its amazing choreography over his “Mao’s Last Dancer” free program which is more of a jumping contest than a cohesive performance.  Chen also sported some new costumes here designed by Vera Wang (who was in San Jose) to mixed reviews.  As I mentioned in my Skate America recap, Chen is in the mix for a medal at the Olympics and could even grab the gold if top skaters like reigning Olympic champ, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan don’t perform at their peak.  With his multiple quads and ever improving artistry, he’s bound to make waves.

2017 Junior World champion Vincent Zhou, 17, grabbed the bronze medal here and was selected for the team.  Zhou, who was last year’s silver medalist, had been struggling with consistency this season and was something of a wildcard coming into Nationals.  Like Chen, Zhou also has multiple quads in his programs but he is prone to under rotations, which lower his score. 

For example, in his free skate to “Moulin Rouge” he under rotated three quads and another was downgraded.  However, he also received over 20 points for a quad lutz- triple toe combination, one of the hardest jumps in men’s figure skating.  You can see why the USFS decided to send him since he’s a star on the rise with difficult technical content.

The final member of the Olympic team is Adam Rippon, who at 28, is attending his first Olympics after many years of heartbreak.  Rippon placed fourth here and there was some nail biting among his fans whether he would be selected.  His placement here was shocking to many after a very strong season where he received two silver medals in the Grand Prix series and made it to the final in December, where he placed fifth out of six.

Rippon had an amazing short program to “Let Me Think About It” where he received over 96 points and was predicted by many to win the silver medal behind his training mate, Nathan Chen.  However, a fall on his quad lutz attempt and two uncharacteristic popped triple jumps in his “Birds” Free Skate, left Rippon disappointed.  I had to wonder if his best friend Ashley Wagner’s fourth place finish was weighing on his mind.

Still, the committee voted overwhelmingly to put Rippon on the team due to his body of work the past couple of seasons.  Rippon is also the first openly gay wintergames athlete and gives good quotes, so he will certainly make a splash in Pyeongchang. As a fan of Rippon’s, I’m glad he’s going at this stage in his career.

Finally, an honorable mention to Jimmy Ma, 22, who placed 11th here.  Ma's short program to Lil Jon's "Turn Down for What" is getting lots of viral notice.  I got to talk to Ma, who hails from Great Neck, NY and now trains in Texas who told me that as a kid he trained at Iceland, which is the neighborhood skating rink near where I grew up.  Small world!

Pairs Podium
As I predicted, married pairs team Alexa Scimeca-Knierim, 26 and Chris Knierim, 30, were chosen for the Olympic team, despite some mistakes in their free program to “Ghost.”  The Knierims were very emotional with their win at Nationals after going through a lot of challenges the past two years.  After getting married in 2016, Alexa became very ill with a gastrointestinal disease that required surgery and months of recuperation.  Chris also lost his dad and uncle recently, so I really feel for the two of them and that they manage to keep training and performing is quite amazing.

The remaining podium here was silver medalists Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, bronze medalists Deanna Stellato and Nate Bartholomay and pewter medalists Ashley Cain and Tim LeDuc.  Kayne and O’Shea will be competing at the World Championships in Milan, Italy alongside the Kneirims.

Ice Dance Podium
Although the Olympic Ice Dance team was pretty much set before the competition, it still wound up to be one of the more dramatic competitions in San Jose, due to a shake-up of the top 3.  For the past two seasons the sibling pair of Maia and Alex Shibutani (aka the Shibsibs) have been the top dance team in the US. In 2016, they won a silver medal at Worlds with their “Fix You” free dance and have been trying to build on that momentum ever since.

This year, they went back into the Coldplay playlist and chose “Paradise” as their free dance music.  The Shibsibs were leading after the short dance by about three points, the gold was in their reach.  However, during the free dance, Maia made an uncharacteristic stumble and they also lost a few levels on a few elements.

This left the door open for Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, whose sensual and committed performances have been getting noticed internationally this season.  They managed to move in front of the Shibutanis by .19 points to grab the gold, even though they placed second in both of their programs.

Strangely enough, the winners of the free dance, Madison Chock and Evan Bates wound up in third place over all after their “Imagine” program.  Chock and Bates were visibly disappointed to find themselves with the bronze medal having been silver medalists the past two seasons and National champs in 2015.  Admittedly, I’m not a fan of their programs this season and feel that Chock’s skating skills have regressed a bit. 

It will be very interesting to watch these three teams battle it out for the bronze medal at the Olympics, behind the Canadians Virtue/Moir and the French team of Papadakis/Cizeron.

Honorable mention goes to Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, who were repeat pewter (fourth place) medalists, but had one their best free dances to “Liebestraum” after some unfortunate mistakes at last year’s Nationals.  

Hawayek and Baker also have one of the most entertaining gala programs to “Austin Powers.” 

So that's my take on US Nationals!  If you're a figure skating fan or just a casual, once in four years viewer, I'd love to know your thoughts below or reach out to me on Twitter @nydigitalmarket.

Andrea Goldstein is a digital marketing
professional with a passion for pop culture.
@nydigitalmarket on Twitter

#men #pairs #icedance #figureskating, #ladiesfigureskating #2018Olympics, #Blog, #Sports, #Athlete, #review #AndreaGoldstein, #nydigitalmarket, #USFS, #WinterOlympics

Thursday, January 11, 2018

US Nationals Recap – Senior Ladies Olympics Preview

Last week, I made a trip to see the US Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center in San Jose, California (escaping the deep freeze in NY).  Also known as Nationals or #USChamps18, this annual skating competition is very exciting as the results determine a skater’s fate as to what competitions they will be assigned to finish out the skating season.

Being an Olympic year made Nationals especially dramatic, with the team being announced following the competition. The criteria for choosing the team is based on a body of international competitive work of the skaters for the past couple of seasons, which means that sometimes the top 3 finishers aren’t automatically sent, as with other sports. This came into play during the selection of the men’s team, which I will go into in my next blog post.  But first up, the Ladies!

In my Skate America recap, I wrote about Bradie Tennell, 19, who medaled with two clean programs and set expectations that she would make the Nationals podium.  Last week, Tennell lived up to her promise by skating clean and landing herself on top of the podium with an overall score of 219 points (scores over 200 are considered excellent).  While Tennell isn’t the most charismatic, her consistency in landing her jumps has made her US Figure Skating’s newest sweetheart and was easily selected for the Olympic team.

Behind Tennell with an overall score of 213 points was silver medalist Mirai Nagasu.  Skating fans will remember that Nagasu finished fourth at the 2010 Olympics but struggled with consistency over the past eight years and was left off the Olympic team in 2014 when she placed third at Nationals.  Now a veteran at age 24, she is going to her second Olympic games thanks to her dedicated work ethic the past couple of seasons and her near mastery of the triple axel (3A), the hardest jump in the Ladies’ discipline.

Nagasu had one of the big moments of the week, in my opinion, following her free skate to “Miss Saigon” which had a couple of mistakes, including a messy landing on her 3A and an under rotated triple lutz, but was otherwise clean and expressive.  Nagasu burst into tears of relief following her skate and the crowd was on their feet for a good minute while she took her bows.  Being her fan, this was an amazing moment to witness!

The bronze medalist at Nationals, Karen Chen, 18, was also selected for the Olympic team.  She was the 2017 Senior Ladies champ and placed fourth at last year’s World Championships.  However, she has been struggling all season in competition and was a wildcard going into Nationals.  On top of this, Chen also got sick the day in between her competitions, so expectations for her free skate were low.  Although Chen had a few underrotated jumps in her free skate, her short program score was enough to pull her ahead of Ashley Wagner, who finished fourth.

Wagner, a three-time US champion and a World silver medalist in 2016 was the headlining story in San Jose due to her failure to be selected for the Olympic team.  Wagner, 26, is partnered with Olympic sponsors such as Bridgestone Tires, and heavily featured in NBC’s promotional spots for the Games.  Many remember she was selected in 2014 to go to the Sochi Olympics over Mirai Nagasu, even though she placed fourth.  This time her body of work could not save her since she has also struggled with consistency the past two seasons.

Following her free skate, Wagner spoke out that she felt the judges had undermarked her in program components.  In previous seasons, judges had always scored Wagner high in her program components and here it appeared they dumped her in favor of Bradie Tennell, whose artistic expression is no match for Ashley’s on ice charisma and performance quality.

But Wagner also  needs to take responsibility for not making the team.  She decided to debut her “La La Land” free skate for Nationals after dumping it early in the season for her old stand-by “Moulin Rouge” which she had performed in two prior seasons.  Many argue that the new program didn't have enough mileage. 

She also withdrew from Skate America in November with a topical ankle infection which caused her pain.  Many felt she should’ve fought through but Ashley rightly put her health first.  Still, it did not win her any favors with skating officials.  Most importantly, Wagner botched her triple-triple combination in her short program. Then in her free skate, she missed some spin levels and popped an important jump on her second triple- triple combination, costing her valuable points.

As a fan of Wagner’s, I feel her frustration and heartbreak,  but don’t think she should’ve made the team based on her performance here.  Still, it was unfortunate that the judges lowered her components without warning. After all, it was only about 2.5 points between her and Chen.  If Wagner hadn't relied on her program components and didn't lose those valuable tech points, she would be on the team.

I want to give honorable mention to Starr Andrews, a 16-year-old African American skater who placed sixth here.  She got a huge standing ovation for her clean skate to Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time" which featured Andrews partly on vocals (skating karaoke, anyone?)  Andrews is a young talent on the rise and it's also refreshing to see more diversity in skating.  I hope to see her make it to the 2022 Olympics!

I will be cheering on our US ladies in PyeongChang starting Feb 11th in the team event.  The US team is favored for a bronze medal, behind Russia and Canada.  My next blog post will cover the remaining disciplines – Senior Men, Senior Pairs and Senior Dance.

Andrea Goldstein is a digital marketing professional with a passion for pop culture.  @nydigitalmarket on Twitter

#ladies #figureskating, #ladiesfigureskating #2018Olympics, #Blog, #Sports, #Athlete, #review #AndreaGoldstein, #nydigitalmarket, #USFS, #WinterOlympics